Plumbing doesn’t appear to be that difficult and is something that many homeowners attempt to try on their own. After all, as the theory goes, why pay someone else to do what you can do for yourself?

However, when it comes to your home’s plumbing, trying to DIY your projects or repairs may cost more than you’d think. Here are six reasons you should hire a licensed plumber for your project and repairs and the differences in plumbing licenses.

1. Plumbing Code Compliance

Plumbing is important for every building, managing water, waste, and natural gas fuel. When something goes awry with your plumbing, it can create a disgusting mess and can also be dangerous, causing everything from water damage to potential fire hazards.

This is why Wisconsin has codified requirements that all plumbing must meet. Wisconsin law permits you to perform plumbing work on your own home but not on anyone else’s. Even if you perform your own work, you’re still required to meet the standard set forth in the plumbing code.

It’s not likely that you’ll have an inspector or any other enforcer come knocking on your door to inspect your plumbing. However, when it’s time to sell your home, you’ll have a presale inspection. Something commonly uncovered during this inspection is violations of various codes, including the plumbing code.

This can become a barrier to completing the sale and give your buyer an opportunity to pull out of the agreement. They may offer to make the purchase but either reduce the offer or make the sale contingent on bringing the plumbing up to code. Either of these situations can cost you handsomely for something that could have easily, and less expensively, been done when you first completed the repair or project.

2. Household Safety

Your home’s safety is one of the key concerns for licensed plumbers. If they’re working on your home’s water system, they understand that a leak is more than just a mere inconvenience. Rather, it can lead directly to issues from water saturation, including not only water damage to the structure but also the health risks associated with mold. If they’re working on something that connects to the natural gas service to your home, they understand that even a small leak can lead to catastrophic consequences.

There are three levels of the plumbing license in Wisconsin. The highest is the master plumber license, which takes about eight years of working experience and over 800 hours of classroom experience. A plumber who has graduated from an accredited engineering university or college can forego the normal apprenticeship and journeyman program and go straight to a master plumber license.

The goal of all of the training and experience is that the plumber gains an understanding of how to conduct plumbing services safely. The educational component includes hours of training about the proper process for conducting plumbing services to ensure your home stays safe during and after they render the service.

3. Trusted Contractors

Bringing a service contractor into your home is always a risk and one that you should take seriously. The service professional has access to your home and your family while they’re there, and your expectation is that they’re as trustworthy as they are experienced.

Licensing requirements in Wisconsin include a background check before they issue a license. Pre-employment background checks may be more stringent, but the licensing board will not issue a license to anyone that has certain convictions in their background within the last six years.

If you decide to hire an unlicensed handyman to perform plumbing installations or repairs, you’re taking on the risk of the person’s trustworthiness. If you have a family or are concerned about maintaining your home’s safety and security, you’re best served by choosing a licensed plumber.

4. Workmanship and Appliance Warranty

There’s a reasonable expectation that a plumber will stand behind their work when you hire them to install or repair part of your home’s plumbing. Some appliances come with a factory warranty, such as dishwashers, water heaters, and garbage disposals. However, many of those appliances also require that a licensed professional install them. If you get a friend to do it, hire a handyman, or try to do it yourself, you may risk invalidating the warranty.

Those factory warranties may cover hardware failure, but they do not usually cover the labor for the repairs. They also don’t cover labor if there’s an issue with how it was installed. Licensed plumbers commonly offer a limited guarantee on workmanship for many repairs and installations, usually lasting about a year. If something goes wrong with how they installed it, they’ll come back and make it right. These labor warranties are especially common among established plumbing service companies.

5. Insurance Considerations

You want to consider the insurance implications of who you have working on your plumbing. First is whether your insurance company will cover a claim caused by faulty installation or repairs. If your home sustains water damage or experiences a fire, the insurance company is going to look for signs of negligence. If they can show that repairs or projects weren’t completed up to code and weren’t completed by someone whom you could have reasonably expected to know how to do the job, they may decline your coverage. This means that trying to do it yourself, hiring the local unlicensed handyman, or having a well-meaning friend help you could leave you financially responsible for those damages.

Further, licensed plumbers are required to carry liability insurance to maintain their licenses. This offers coverage if someone on the crew gets injured while on your property. However, if the person who’s working on your project or repair doesn’t have that liability coverage, it’ll come back on you and your homeowner’s insurance. Given the intrinsic danger of some plumbing repairs and projects, there is a reasonable risk of injury for people who aren’t properly trained.

6. Protection Against Damage

If your home sustains damage from negligent or faulty workmanship, you want to know that there’s going to be coverage. Your insurance company will first look to the company that provided the work to cover the costs of the damages. This is why it’s important to work with a licensed plumber who is both bonded and insured. The required liability insurance also covers this kind of damage. So not only are you reducing the risk of negligent damage but if it does happen, you’re doubly covered between your homeowner’s insurance and the company’s liability insurance.

Understanding Different Plumbing Licenses

As you consider the plumbing work you need to have done, consider the three different licenses we mentioned earlier. The licensed plumber who is fully trained and legally allowed to provide work without supervision is the master plumber. However, in many cases, you’ll have either an apprentice or a journeyman plumber working on your project.

A plumbing apprentice must work under the direct supervision of a master or journeyman plumber. A journeyman plumber may work independently on jobs. However, the company must be owned by a master plumber who takes responsibility for any problems that arise from the work of the journeyman plumber.

Residents around Madison have turned to Southport Home Services to keep their homes safe and comfortable since 2005. Our expert team provides water heat services, water treatment options, fixture installation, sump pump installation and repair, gas line repair, and bathroom remodels, along with heating and air conditioning installation, maintenance and repair, and indoor air quality solutions. Call to schedule your plumbing repair with one of our licensed plumbers today.

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Thomas Suchla
Thomas Suchla


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